5 Things I Wish Someone Reminded Me of Before I Studied Abroad
1. Live in the moment.
One of the most important things to remember while enjoying your time abroad is to live in the moment.
Your friends from home will still be there when you get back. Don’t spend all your time worrying about what is going on at your home school — enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime experience and be in the now!
… and Develop New Friendships
Spend time with the people in your housing arrangements and classes. Some of my favorite memories from studying abroad were the afternoons spent hanging out on the green at my townhouse with my roommates and other students in in my program!
Making deep connections with the students you meet abroad is so important when settling into your host country and for your overall experience. It is also wonderful to have these friendships for when you return home — then you have people to reminisce with and your memories with while settling back into your home school! This transition can sometimes be difficult and having peers and friends who understand what you’re experiencing can make the transition smoother.
Soak Up Your Host City
Living in the moment also includes enjoying your host country. Don’t need to feel pressured to travel to a different country every weekend. For many, it can be unrealistic and there are a thousand things to see where you’re studying abroad. Soak up your host city or country so you get to see and experience as much of it as you can in the short period of time you you call it home!
2. Download Citymapper.
Citymapper is an app I wish I knew about sooner! It is the greatest way to stay on top of your travel plans when in a new city. It can route trips in 39 urban areas around the world! The app will provide you with several options for the trip you have entered including, walking, cycling, public transportation, and even Uber. It also includes the prices for each option and the time of each trip.
Once you choose an option it will provide you with a map of the route and give you step-by-step, turn-by-turn directions — even when trains are arriving! You can save your trips in advance so they are available while you are offline.
I found this app very reliable and it helped me feel confident traveling around Europe on my own!
3. Say yes!
Be open to new opportunities and take as many that come your way as possible, even if they are simply trying new foods or participating in class. Remaining open to each new experience while abroad will only enhance your experience and allow you to delve into new cultures.
Sometimes “new” can be intimidating, but by saying yes you are conquering the challenge and are broadening your list of completed adventures. These adventures can also potentially turn into some hilarious stories that you will be dying to with friends and family!
Say yes to joining clubs on campus. This is one of the best ways to meet other international students and really be an active part of the campus. Clubs give you a great opportunity to go on trips and explore new hobbies or activities that you may have been interested in before, but never got to participate in.
Most importantly, say yes to new people! Introduce yourself to people in your classes and in the community. Remember, a smile is universal and doesn’t speak a language!
4. Budget and spend wisely.
Don’t go on a shopping spree and buy everyone a souvenir at the beginning of your study abroad experience. You will be sorry later on.
Place a weekly limit for yourself and make sure to include fun money, but be realistic. When/if you are planning on traveling to other countries or cities while you are abroad, allot the amount you are willing to spend for different trips and weekends.Keep in mind the transportation, especially to and from the airports, as well as accommodations.
Hostels are the way to go when traveling in pairs or small groups and trying to get the most bang for your buck, but I found that splurging on an Airbnb for a couple of nights was well worth it when traveling in larger groups. Look online for group rates and check out the student discount opportunities!
5. Keep a journal.
Write down your memories. Whenever I read back through my journal entries from studying abroad, I am reminded of something that slipped my mind from my experience.
Journaling gives your experience a voice and allows you to have a way to relive what could potentially be the best semester of your college career — as many agree it is. I am glad to know that in 20 years I will be able to flip back through my journal to find the memories and experiences that I cherish so deeply and have become a part of my personal growth recorded in a place other than Facebook.
The details that you record when journaling may seem minuscule, but I guarantee having them later will make up for all the hand cramps. Bring a journal with you during your travels and capture as many moments as you can — even if that means while you’re waiting for a plane or on a bus ride to new adventure. Maybe one day it will become a famous book.
This post was contributed by Dylan DeJames, an AIFS Alumni Ambassador from the College of Charleston who spent a semester studying abroad in Limerick, Ireland.